It takes a lot of confidence to claim to be the “voice of the young people,”Â but confidence is one thing that Lil’ Mama definitely doesn’t lack. The 18-year-old artist, dancer, and reality show judge seems to have it all figured out. With her debut album VYP: Voice of the Young People and plans to dabble in everything, all she needs is the support of her family and the faith that her fans still know the difference between quality and empty hype. Lil’ Mama takes her role very seriously, making sure that she takes what she’s been blessed with, runs with it, and provides exactly what’s expected of her—and maybe even a little more.
What was it like shooting the video for “Shawty Get Loose”Â with Chris Brown and T-Pain?
The video with Chris Brown and T-Pain was fun. I had my whole family out there. We were dealing with a lot because we had just buried my mother a week-and-a-half before and then I had to leave to come out and shoot the video. Shooting the video was fun, but I was in two different places, two different worlds. But I had a good time because everyone was out there making me laugh. The music was going, we were dancing… The vibe was just crazy. We did our solo parts, but in the video you see we did some stuff together, a duet at the end.
The part where you’re doing the Dutty Wine dance on the ground and Chris Brown jumps over you… What type of effects…?
No special effects! We really did that. We were just vibing and certain things we was doing off the camera, we thought was cool so we kept it. We never rehearsed days in advance or nothing. We rehearsed on set and got it together.
Did you get scared he was going to fall on you?
No, we used to do that stuff all the time. My brothers used to jump over my head when we were little, when I was like four.
What’s your dance training like?
I’ve been doing it since I was a kid. I’ve been in and out of hip-hop, ballet, tap. But it was that inner city thing; it wasn’t no professional school. I never really took it seriously until recently.
Being a judge on MTV’s “America’s Best Dance Crew,”Â how do you feel about having that kind of authority?
I’m getting the opportunity of a lifetime right now. It opened doors for me. It gave me the opportunity to do some of the things I won’t be able to do later on in my career. I don’t want to be the type of person where it’s like, “Oh, she’s not doing that well in music, so she’s going to be a judge.”Â You can be doing well in your career and still be open-minded to be a part of something else.
Some people play with the idea of being a judge. It’s like being a critic. People will actually go back to see who wrote that [review]. For all writers and spokespeople, when you speak, you’re a leader. Somebody is riding on your word. And if you’re putting somebody’s life in jeopardy, who are you to do that?
How do you think that starting out at such a young age will affect your career in the long run?
One day I might be able to relax and enjoy my house, enjoy my money that I make, enjoy my fame, and my family…have children someday, get married. I mean, when I was younger, I never really thought about a career.
What do you think of other pop stars that started out young like Britney Spears?
If you look at Britney [Spears’] life right now, I mean look at me, I’m young, I’m signed to Jive Records just like she is, and I’m going through different experiences. One of those experiences may be one that Britney went through too, but they won’t touch that because it’s so much deeper than the obvious. What about how she feels? What about her life? People don’t care because it’s not something they can benefit from and that’s not fair.
In every video and performance you do, you look so happy and full of life. After suffering the tragedy that you recently did with the passing of your mother, how do you manage to keep that up?
We have a strong understanding of what life is about; that’s what makes [our family] strong enough to move on. There’s different ways that you can go about things. I could have stayed in the house and cried and cried sick. Before mommy passed, the only thing she said about all of our careers was, “Do your thing, child. Keep dancing, Ma. Don’t be negative. Don’t think you’re better or too good for nobody.”Â She always kept it so official with us. My mama made sure we knew that the only way to get things done is to do it yourself. And that’s what I do.